If a staff association is not an independent union, an application can be made for de-recognition. But only a worker can do this – not a union. The worker must belong to the bargaining unit of the non-independent union. The rules are complicated and can be found in Schedule 1A to the Trade Union and Labour Relations Consolidation Act 1992: Collective Bargaining: Recognition.
Broadly, unless the employer agrees to derecognise the non-independent union (often called a ‘sweetheart union’), then at least one worker in the bargaining unit must apply formally to the Central Arbitration Committee (CAC) for the non-independent union to be derecognised.
If, at this stage, the CAC accepts that at least 10% of the bargaining unit of the sweetheart union want to end the current arrangements and at least 40% are likely to vote in favour of this, the CAC can order a secret ballot.
To end the current arrangements, at least 40% of the members in the bargaining unit of the sweetheart union must participate, and a majority of participants must vote in favour.
In 2017, the CAC ordered the first ever ballot of the bargaining unit of a non-independent union under the statutory recognition procedure. In a landmark victory following a legal battle lasting many years, six members of independent union the Pharmacists Defence Association Union (PDAU) won the right to have a ballot of members of the bargaining unit of the Boots staff association. And in June 2018, Boots pharmacists voted to support ending the recognition agreement between Boots and its staff association, clearing the way for the PDAU to be recognised by Boots. Finally, in February 2019, Boots pharmacists voted again, this time to support the recognition of their union by Boots. The vote was a resounding success (92.4% in favour of the union).